Instagram YouTube Pinterest Facebook
Chalky Finish



Americana Decor Chalky Finish Education Header
Distressing Resists Layering Dry Brushing Mixing Guide Image Transfer Stenciling Creme Wax Cleanup
Americana Decor Chalky Finish Education
distressing water tips distressing sandpaper tips


A simple way to distress a piece is by simply using a damp, soft rag. This method can be done when Chalky Finish paints are applied over an existing finish or another Chalky Finish paint color. Water distressing should be done within 15-45 minutes of paint application for best results. If paint has had time to dry, you will need to distress with sandpaper instead.

  1. Wet a rag with clean water.
  2. Wring out excess water
  3. Rub over areas you wish to distress until the desired amount of paint is removed.

TIP: When working on a large surface, work one section at a time. Rinse rag clean from time to time or use multiple rags.


Using sandpaper to distress a piece gives more control over the finished look. Paint should be dry before sanding. Don't use steel wool to distress Chalky Finish paint; it will leave a grey stain.

  1. Select a fine-grit sandpaper to start with, such as a 220-grit.
  2. Use a light touch unless you want to take it down to the bare wood. Go over the raised areas, edges, handles, etc. Imagine where the natural wear would be on the piece, and use sandpaper to mimic the passing of time.
  3. Use more pressure or a coarse-grit sandpaper to remove more or all paint in distressed areas.

TIP: If the piece has an image transfer or stenciled design on it, distress with a small piece of creased/folded sandpaper. Apply pressure and pull in one direction across the image. You don't need to sand back and forth as when you are smoothing out a surface.

TIP: You can distress before or after waxing. There is less mess when distressing AFTER waxing. However, additional wax should be applied over sanded (unsealed) areas.

resistance hard wax tip resistance petroleum jelly tip


To use wax as a resist, rub a wax candle or bar of paraffin wax heavily over the areas where you want the color below to show through. Make sure you wipe away any loose wax with a clean, dry cloth before applying topcoat. Areas coated in the resist will allow the topcoat to be easily removed.


To use petroleum jelly as a resist, use a soft rag, brush, or fingertips to apply to areas where you don't want the paint to stick. When applying the next layer of paint over the petroleum jelly, make sure not to brush over it too many times. If you do, the brush will start to pick up and spread the jelly to other parts of the piece. If you are working on a larger furniture item, you might want to work in smaller sections, washing and drying the brush periodically to prevent a build-up of the petroleum jelly. Make sure you remove all petroleum jelly when top coat is dry.

layering step 1 layering step 2 layering step 3 layering step 4

Americana Decor Chalky Finish paints are beautiful when layered and then distressed to reveal multiple layers of color underneath. It can be fun to have a bright, vivid color peeking out from underneath a more muted tone. Visible layering of colors gives the impression of heirloom furniture that has been around for generations, finding its home in differently-styled rooms.


To use wax, rub a wax candle or bar of paraffin wax heavily over the areas where you want the color below to show through. Make sure you wipe away any loose wax with a clean, dry cloth before applying topcoat. Areas coated in the resist will allow the topcoat to be easily removed.

  1. Apply basecoat color. Let dry.
  2. Apply resist of your choice.
  3. Apply contrasting color over entire piece. Let dry.
  4. Use sandpaper to remove the topcoat of paint on resist areas. Begin with light pressure to ensure only the top layer is removed.
  5. If more intense distressing is desired, increase pressure or use coarser grit sandpaper.
  6. When satisfied with look, remove dust and apply Americana Decor Crème Wax or Varnish to seal.

TIP: Repeat steps 1-5 to add a third layer of color to the piece by sanding down just enough to see the second layer in some spots and the third layer in others.

dry brushing tip 1 dry brushing tip 2

Drybrushing is a technique that allows a lot of brush strokes and underlying color to show through. It is a simple technique to get an aged, weathered look.


  1. Apply basecoat. Let dry.
  2. Load a wide, dry chip brush with a very small amount of a contrasting color.
  3. Blot brush on a paper towel to remove any excess.
  4. Use long strokes to lightly apply paint, dragging along the surface.
  5. Continue over entire piece, reloading as necessary.

TIP: If you prefer a smooth paint application with few brush strokes, dampen your brush before painting.

Americana Decor Chalky Finish paints can be easily mixed to create an endless array of custom colors. When mixing your paints, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Make a mixing swatch chart for reference by using 1/4 teaspoons amounts of paint. Purchase old mixing spoons at flea markets for this. When you get to the color you want, write down the ratios on an index card and paint a swatch of the color on the card. This will make repeating mixes easier in the future.
  • Mix in a resealable container to keep for future use (clean glass or plastic jars work well).
  • For consistent proportions, use a disposable cup to measure paint. Mark a fill line with a permanent marker and cover the mark with transparent tape to prevent it from rubbing off.
  • Stir mixture with a palette knife or a popsicle stick. Small amounts of paint are easier to mix.
  • Mix more paint than you think you'll need, to have on hand for touch-ups and sample swatches.

Create these colors by mixing Americana Decor Chalky Finish colors in the proportions listed under each swatch.

custom color mixes 1 custom color mixes 2 custom color mixes 3 custom color mixes 4 custom color mixes 5 custom color mixes 6
image transfer step 1 image transfer step 2 image transfer step 3 image transfer step 4 image transfer step 5

Americana Decor Image Transfer Medium is the ideal medium for use with your own laser copies. Add old-world, European, shabby chic, and vintage imagery to furniture and home decor accents.


  1. Trim your image to desired size. Use images made on a laser printer or copier (dry toner) using lightweight paper.
  2. Apply medium to the image and surface. Let dry.
  3. Apply another coat of medium to the image and surface.
  4. While still wet, position the image face down on the surface.
  5. Smooth out any creases or air bubbles and remove excess medium with a damp cloth.
  6. Allow to dry for 8 hours.
  7. Once medium is dry, wet the paper thoroughly with a sponge and let sit for 2-5 minutes.
  8. Use a soft sponge or fingertips to rub away paper layers. Let dry.
  9. Repeat wetting process until all paper has been removed.

TIP: When transferring words, be sure to print a mirror image so the final piece will read correctly.

TIP: For added durability, also apply Image Transfer Medium as a topcoat.

TIP: To use on fabric, pre-wash first. If working with layers of fabric, insert a piece of cardboard covered with wax paper between the layers to prevent sticking. Allow to dry 72 hours before hand-washing. Air dry. Do not dry clean or iron. For a machine washable finish, topcoat with Americana Fabric Decou-Page and let dry for 72 hours prior to machine washing.

stenciling tip 1 stenciling tip 2

Apply the stencils before distressing or sealing the surface to ensure the image looks like it aged with the piece and isn't just sitting on top of the surface.


  1. Position stencil. Use stencil adhesive or painter's tape to prevent the stencil from sliding.
  2. Use stencil brush or cosmetic sponge to apply paint inside open stencil areas.
  3. Remove stencil.
  4. Seal finished piece with Americana Decor Crème Wax or Varnish.

TIP: Make sure to blot most of the paint off the brush or sponge before applying to the stencil. This helps prevent paint from bleeding under the stencil. Do several light applications for best results.

wax tip 1 wax tip 2 metallic frame tip wax tip 3


  1. Use a brush or lint-free rag to apply. Immediately wipe off any excess.
  2. Allow the first coat of wax to dry and then apply a second coat. Test it to make sure it isn't sticky or tacky. Then add more wax. Thin coats are best. Too much wax will be difficult to buff and may result in a splotchy finish.
  3. Use a clean, light color cloth to buff. (The dyes in colored fabrics may discolor the finish.) For a glossier sheen, buff the wax as soon as it is no longer tacky.

TIP: When using Chalky Finish paint on fabric, such as a chair seat, use wax as a finish to help protect the paint and make it easier to clean. It will not crack like other brands of wax will.

TIP: To achieve a metallic look, Clear Crème Wax can be tinted with acrylic metallic paint. Other colors can be achieved by mixing with other water-based paints. The ability to combine our water-based waxes with other paints opens up a huge array of finishing possibilities that aren't available with other oil-based waxes.


Light Golden and Deep Brown Crème Waxes will give the piece a very different finished look. Darker waxes change the intensity of the color significantly, so test on a small area before applying to entire piece.

The most important thing about using darker waxes is they must be applied over the Clear Crème Wax while it is still fresh. If not, the darker waxes will seep into the paint and won't be workable. Also, the paint will become permanently discolored.

Use the same basic method for applying Clear Crème Wax. Wipe back the Light Golden or Deep Brown Crème Wax immediately, leaving color in crevices.

TIP: If the color is darker than desired, use a clean rag to apply Clear Crème Wax over the areas that are too dark. Then use a clean rag to remove excess color.

TIP: If the Light Golden or Deep Brown Crème Wax will be added to areas distressed with sandpaper, make sure raw wood areas are sealed with Clear Wax first. The darker waxes will stain the wood on any unsealed painted areas.

Americana Decor Chalky Finish paints are water-soluble. Brushes and other tools will clean easily with soap and water.

To clean a finished piece, use soap and water on a soft rag or kitchen sponge. Clean up food or drink messes as soon as possible.

Re-wax the piece depending on how frequently you use it. Infrequently-used pieces can be waxed once a year or less. A kitchen table, on the other hand, should be waxed every three to four months. Consider using one of the Americana Decor Varnishes as the topcoat on any pieces that will get daily use.

TIP: Always clean jar threads before replacing jar lid. Leaving paint on jar threads will make it difficult to remove lids in the future.

Additional Resources

Educational Videos

Learn more about using Americana Decor Chalky Finish
see all videos

Related Chalky Finish Projects

Get inspired with our craft and DIY project ideas made with Chalky Finish.
see all projects